2009 Recruiting: Taylor Lewan
Previously: S Vlad Emilien, S Thomas Gordon, CB Justin Turner, CB Adrian Witty, LB Isaiah Bell, LB Mike Jones, LB Brandin Hawthorne, DT Will Campbell, DE Anthony LaLota, DE Craig Roh, and OL Michael Schofield.
|Scottsdale, Arizona - 6'7" 272
|Scout||4*, #20 OT, #274 overall|
|Rivals||4*, #16 OT, #194 overall|
|ESPN||81, #12 OT, #148 overall|
|Other Suitors||Miami (That Miami), Minnesota, Arizona State, Oregon|
|Tom interviews Lewan and Roh.|
|Notes||Chaparral(Craig Roh). Dad played for Gophers.|
Taylor Lewan was virtually unknown until he transferred to Chaparral and his high school coach moved him to offensive tackle (he had previously been a defensive lineman; all of his video on the youtubes remains DL highlights). Three games later, Lewan was sitting on two dozen offers and getting called "the hottest prospect in the country" by the recruiting sites. (Example 1. Example 2. Example 3.) He was quickly bestowed four stars in the next re-rank, got an invite to the ESPN All American game, and embarked on a college visit tour featuring Minnesota (where his dad played in the 80s), Michigan, Oregon, and some local schools. Shortly after the Michigan visit, he committed.
That's a a whirlwind four months for a guy who had a single offer from Utah State when he attended the USC Rising Stars camp in July.
If your pattern recognition is good, or even adequate, or even sucky, you are likely to feel some sense of déjà vu as you read the upcoming scouting evaluations, random quotes from his coach, and so on and so forth. That's because Lewan fits squarely in a number of Rodriguez recruiting themes:
- Teammates. Craig Roh committed to Michigan the summer before Lewan blew up and was a major factor in his decision for M.
- Athletic offensive linemen. When this site profiled Michael Schofield it noted the kid ran track (hurdles!) his first couple years in high school and had a very respectable 40 time; Lewan, as you'll see, has a similar ability to move in space.
- Frame and upside. Like DE Anthony LaLota, Lewan is new to his position and still very raw. He's got a great frame to back on defender-crushing pounds but will need some time to do so; Rodriguez has faith in Barwis to get it done.
On with the talking. First, ESPN's scouting report:
He is a tall and lean kid with a good build, but he is lean for an offensive tackle and will need to work to add more bulk to his frame. He is a kid who plays hard and is very productive. He makes good initial contact and will flash the ability to generate power from his hips and when he does that he can drive a defender off the ball. He is a tall kid though that needs to watch his pad level and focus to stay low. He is very good with his hands as both a run and pass blocker.
… Will hop at times and open quickly, but displays the tools to be a college left tackle. Lewan has some parts of his game to keep developing and needs to add bulk, but this is a good offensive tackle prospect that also possesses nice upside.
This will quickly become the resounding chorus: development, bulk, upside. When Bruce Feldman took in the USC Rising Stars camp last year Lewan was in attendance and eye-catching, though obviously raw:
He is, of course, still very raw, and that certainly showed some times Wednesday. In fact, Lewan had a turn for his one-on-one rep just as Pete Carroll walked over and stood right behind the DE. Lewan got beat to the outside for a sack. Carroll motioned for Lewan to go again, this time against a different DE, who then beat the Arizona product with a quick inside move. Once again, Carroll had Lewan line up. This time, the third defensive end got the sack on a bull-rush.
Lewan looked disappointed but he didn't seem to stay down for long and went on to acquit himself pretty well the rest of the day. Later, he made a joke about it. "I guess that's why I signed up for the two-day camp."
Rivals also commented on Lewan's appearance at the camp, saying no one was "put together as impressively" from a "looks standpoint", which is a nice way of saying "needs development and bulk but has upside." His father noted his youth and inexperience at the time:
"He's just 16 and won't be 17 until late July," said Lewan's father, Dave. "He also is just learning the offensive tackle position. He was a defensive tackle, but he'll now be the starting left tackle for Chaparral. He's still got a lot to learn about the position, but everybody we've talked to has been very impressed with how quickly he's picking things up."
Lewan did get the hang of things as the season progressed. In the aftermath, he was named to Scout's All State team. The list constructor was enthusiastic: "had such a great season, I considered him for player of the year honors."
Now how about a barrage of quotes from his coach? When Lewan committed, his coach echoed the overall sentiment:
"That's the best athlete I've ever seen at offensive lineman," Chaparral coach Charlie Ragle said. "I was at ASU for a year (as a graduate assistant) and coached some good offensive linemen, some that are in the NFL. He's a better athlete than those guys. Not a better lineman yet, but a better athlete. He's just raw. His upside is huge."
“Michigan is getting, in my opinion, the steal of this year's recruiting class in the country,” Ragle said. “I know that's a bold statement to make, (but) this kid’s ability on the field won't be questioned. He's as good an athlete on the offensive line as I've ever seen.”
"He's as good athletically as any guy I have ever coached," Ragle said. "The thing that makes him so special is his upside when you think he's only been coached at the position for about eight months. But the one intangible that's most impressive is his nastiness --Taylor wants to burry someone on every play, and you can't coach that."
“I tell college coaches all the time: ‘you’ll be hard pressed to find a more athletic lineman than this guy.’ "
Charlie Ragle is somewhat enthused here. I detect a hint of enthusiasm.
So, yeah, this is a guy to stash on the bench for a year while he learns the Tao of Barwis. Then he is to be unleashed. Rodriguez as paraphrased by the Daily:
He’s physical, he can run … he’s got that type of body that we like to build on. … one of the best tackles we saw on film all year. … Father was an OL at Minnesota, so he knows what the Big Ten is all about
This Max Preps guy describes that body in… uh… a way. Definitely some sort of way or fashion:
Most 275-pound high school kids have flab, but Lewan looks like a strong dancer in tights.
And let's give the final tantalizing word to ESPN:
Lewan's development into a top-15 offensive tackle has been nothing short of amazing. We feel Michigan is getting an offensive lineman with perhaps the best upside we have seen at the position in recent years.
Okay, okay. All that sounds pretty freaking great but here's where I have to play party-pooper: redshirt freshman Dann O'Neill has disappeared into the background at Michigan, passed by Patrick Omameh and hardly mentioned on the recruiting sites outside of threads like "whatever happened to Dann O'Neill?" While O'Neill still has plenty of time to get his strength up and technique together, he's gone from the #1 OL recruit in his class to probably #4, as Barnum, Omameh, and Khoury all seem closer to the field.
Upside is just upside, and if you put it on the field you're not going to fare well. Lewan's got a ways to go and there are many pitfalls along the way from high school OT to Jake Long. Speaking of…
Why Jake Long? No pressure, kid! Well, 1) Lewan likes Long a lot and compares his game to the Destroyer of Ends, 2) by the end of Long's recruiting cycle he was a mid-four star who probably would have been in the same area Lewan ended up if the sites were ranking out to 300 back then, and 3) "perhaps the best upside we have seen at the position in recent years."
Etc.: Picture above regarded as "hott".
Guru Reliability: Moderate to high. All Star game appearance and a solid consensus, but that consensus is "we really, really like this guy's upside but can't rank him in the top 100 because he's only played OL for one year."
General Excitement Level: High. Good rankings, good kid, good fit. Not "very high" because it seems like he's got to do more development than most before he's college-ready.
Projection: Assured redshirt and then thrown into the tackle deathpit as a redshirt freshman; more likely his first shot at a starting job will be as a redshirt sophomore. It's tough to project offensive linemen with any confidence, but Lewan's athleticism will serve him well in Michigan's scheme and he's got a good shot at being a multi-year starter.